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Yellow Pages Advertising

January 24, 2008

Of all of the advertising I do, Yellow Pages gives me the most concern. It is very expensive; approximately 1% of our gross and I have no metrics that tell me if it works. The salesman, of course, assures me that it is worth every penny. However, when is the last time you used The Yellow Pages? It would probably be easier for you to answer, "When was the last time you used Google to find a brick and mortar store?" See where I am going with this?

Obviously, The Yellow Pages sees the handwriting on the wall because, for the past few years, they have started to offer Internet based products on their website yellowpages.com. If you are in the printed Yellow Pages, you get one free listing on their web site under your main category (in my case Furniture, Outdoor). If you want a link to your web page that is extra. Guaranteed placement can be purchased; otherwise, it is based on the total business you do with them. Maps, extra information, and "clickable logos" are available, too. All at an additional monthly cost.

A new Internet product for this year is a 45 second video clip they will produce for you to put next to your logo on their web site. For a sample go to:

http://www.yellowpages.com/info-IY241127970/Chez-Ben-Fahrenheit?auto_play=true

For somewhat less, you can get a Flash slide show presentation. For a sample go to:

http://www.yellowpages.com/info-IY241128144/Maynard-Custom-Builders?auto_play=true

For the video, The Yellow Pages can do a turn key operation by sending a camera team to my store, take the footage, edit it, do the voice over, and then put it on the site. Or, for a little less money, I can have my advertising agency do the production (using footage we already have in the can). The Flash slide show is the least expensive product. All I need to do is provide the images and work with them on body copy. The turnkey video costs about $165/month in my market. The Flash option is only $117/month.

Unlike the printed pages, I get very good metrics about their web site. Last year about 1,000 surfers clicked on my listing. If those numbers hold up this year, the video would cost me about $1.98 per hit. This is not inexpensive. Again, I have to decide whether people are going to use The Yellow Pages web site or just do a Google search.

One of the most exasperating aspects of the presentation my Yellow Pages rep made was when I did a Google search for Yellow Pages. I would expect their listing to be first if for no other reason than they would pay for that privilege. Instead, they are second, at least when I did the search. When I questioned my rep about this, I was told they buy a great deal of television, print, and radio advertising to get the name of their Internet product out; so, they don’t see the need to pay to be first on a Google search. The rep then told me about a product they call Priority Listing. For $268/mo they will guarantee me top listing on their site when users search by any of the headings I am listed under in my area. Doesn’t it make sense that if they think priority placement is worth so much to me, they should take advantage of it on Google for their own product?

But I digress and rant!! I think the days of a printed Yellow Pages directory are numbered. I have an iPhone and even when I am near a Yellow Pages book, I prefer to use the iPhone mapping abilities to get a phone number. If I want to find the businesses near me who specialize in something, I use Google. Not only do I get the local companies, I get to see everyone in the country to compare services, products, and prices. For the same reason, I think their Internet product is out of step with the times. Most modern day browsers come with a Google search field built into the navigation bar. I’ve never seen one with a Yellow Pages search field.

At 1% of my gross, The Yellow Pages is an expense that bears close watching. I am sure it will become a smaller and smaller expense over the next two or three years. But it is sort of like saying your prayers before you go to bed at night, you don’t know if it works, but you are scared to stop just in case it does.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce